The Origin of Back Biting Phrase

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another.

back·bit·ing / ˈbakˌbīting/ (source:

• n. malicious talk about someone who is not present.

DERIVATIVES: back·bite / -ˌbīt/ v. ; back·bit·er / -tər/ n.

Backbiting in the Church goes way back to the time of Paul when he wrote to the Galatians, and I’m sure it goes back to the dawn of time as part of our human nature. It appears that the words “backbite” or “backbiting” were first used in the late 12th century, but I could not find a credible resource to pinpoint its origin. It is clear though that the Bible verse teaching us not to “bite and devour” us can be applied.  Today we are more likely to use the phrase “talking behind my back”.

Here is the full Bible verse from the King James Version:

“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” – Galatians 5:14-15

If we truly love one another, then we will not be tempted to talk poorly of each other, especially behind each other’s backs. For if we backbite one another, we are in danger of destroying ourselves. Backbiting is a temptation we are all subject to, but let’s take Paul’s further advice on the subject: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh”.


The Origin of Back Biting Phrase — 1 Comment

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